It’s finally football Saturday, and Notre Dame’s season opener against Temple is just hours away, and I’m heading south, toward San Francisco, a 100 some miles away from my comfortable couch and dual TV set up in my living room.
And, I’m torn. I haven’t missed watching a Notre Dame season opener from the comfort of my couch (except for the 2012 home opener which I was fortunate enough to watch from Notre Dame Stadium) in well over a decade. But, several months ago, with my mind not yet on the upcoming college football season, I purchased tickets to the San Francisco Comic Con, and so, bright and early Saturday morning I packed up the family and we headed out for a fun weekend getting our geek on, immersing ourselves in pop-culture fandom, and meeting some of our favorite celebrities, Summer Glau and Carey Elwes, among them. Anyway, as luck would have it I was actually able to live stream and watch most of the game at the convention even though I’d recorded it to watch later when I got back home.
So what in the hell does any of this have to do with Notre Dame’s game against Temple, you ask? Well, as it happens one of the celebrity guests in attendance has a pretty special connection to Notre Dame, and with the fourth quarter winding down, and the Irish wrapping up a decisive opening day win over Temple, I found myself face to face with Sean Astin, who, of course, played Rudy in the greatest sports movie of all time. With an Irish victory seconds away, and me wearing a Notre Dame t-shirt, and a huge smile on my face, Astin greeted me with “ah, an Irish fan!” to which I responded with a “Go Irish” and then proceeded to tell him that the Irish had just won their season opener 49-16. He seemed pleased to hear that, and then asked who they had played; when I told him that they’d played Temple a knowing smile came across his face; the same smile I’m sure many Irish fans had after the game, the smile that says “nice win to start the season, but…” After a few minutes of talking Irish football, movies, and family, and getting a photo of him as Rudy autographed, we shook hands, and Astin sent us off while he hummed the Notre Dame Fight Song.
Two days later, I was able to sit down and watch the game in its entirety, uninterrupted, and as I got caught up in the excitement of the game playing out on my TV screen, I couldn’t help but recall Astin’s reaction when I told him who the Irish had beaten. Notre Dame looked pretty good against Temple, yes, but how good (or bad) is Temple, really? Temple clearly isn’t the toughest opponent on our schedule this season, but, coming off a 10-4 season and their first major conference title in school history they’re no slouches, either; that said, it sure was nice seeing the Fighting Irish come out swinging and beat an opponent that they “should” beat, and more importantly, do so convincingly.
Key Fighting Irish Plays
1st Quarter – Josh Adams 37 yard TD run. Following a 33 yard completion to St. Brown that set the Irish up in Temple territory, Adams explodes through a hole off the left side of the Irish offensive line and races untouched into the end zone for an early 7-0 Irish lead.
1st Quarter – Julian Okwara sack of Logan Marchi for a loss of 4 yards. In 2016, the Irish didn’t record their first sack of the season until midway through the third quarter of the fourth game of the season, so it was nice to see Okwara get to the QB for a sack on just the first defensive series of the season for the Irish.
2nd Quarter – Brandon Wimbush 5 yard TD pass to St. Brown. Wimbush’s second passing TD of the game, a nice fade route to St. Brown, gives the Irish a commanding 28-10 lead late in the first half.
3rd Quarter – Brandon Wimbush pass Intercepted. The Irish came out a bit stale in the second half, and on their second possession of the second half, Wimbush’s pass to St. Brown is intercepted and returned to the Notre Dame 14 yard line; the Owls are unable to capitalize on the turnover though, as they miss a 36 yard field goal four plays later, and the Irish hold on to a 28-10 lead.
4th Quarter – Dexter Williams 1 yard TD run. With the game solidly in hand, Williams caps off a 3 play 69 yard drive where he ran the ball on all three plays (including a 66 yard run to set the Irish up deep in Owl territory), to give the Irish a commanding 49-16 lead over Temple.
Final Score: Notre Dame 49 – Temple 16.
Top Fighting Irish Performers
Brandon Wimbush – In just his first collegiate start, Wimbush led the Fighting Irish to a decisive opening day win over Temple, putting up good numbers through the air, and on the ground, as well. His one real mistake, an interception early in the third quarter, came when he failed to look off a defender and tried to force a ball in to St. Brown, but that proved inconsequential as the Owls failed to capitalize on his mistake. Wimbush finished the game 17-30 for 184 passing yards, 1 INT, and 2 TDs through the air, adding 114 rushing yards and 1 TD on the ground on just 12 carries.
Josh Adams/Dexter Williams – Ok, so I’m cheating a bit here by not just picking one, but it would have taken a coin flip for me to do that. Adams certainly carried the majority of the workload in the run game for the Irish, carrying the ball 19 times for 161 yards and 2 TDs, but I was equally impressed with what Williams was able to do with much fewer touches, rushing for 124 yards and 1 TD on just 6 carries. In fact, the Irish had three players with over 100 yards rushing (Adams, Williams, and Wimbush) against Temple, which seems to suggest that we may see a greater emphasis to running the ball this season than we have in seasons past.
Tevon Coney – Nyles Morgan may have been on my Players to Watch list for the Temple preview (and he did have a solid game), but it was Tevon Coney who impressed me the most between the two Irish linebackers. Coney finished second behind Morgan for total tackles with 6, but it was his sack for a loss of 10 yards on 3rd Down that pushed the Owls out of chip shot field goal range (which they’d then go on to miss), that earns him the nod here. Coney finished the day with 6 total tackles (3 assisted, 3 solo), 1 TFL, 1 Sack, and 1 QBH.
Next Up: The #24 Fighting Irish take on #15 Georgia Bulldogs in South Bend at 7:30 PM (4:30 PM PST).